Lives of the fellows

John Milne Swithinbank

b.23 June 1918 d.15 December 1993
MRCS LRCP(1941) MB ChB Liverp(1941) MD(1948) MRCP(1948) FRCP(1972)

John Swithinbank was born in Liverpool, the son of Thomas Milne Swithinbank, a headmaster, and his wife Mary née Buist. He was educated at Quarry Bank High School and studied medicine at the University of Liverpool, where he graduated with distinctions in pathology and pharmacology and won the J Hill Abram prize in medicine. After house posts at the Royal Southern Hospital Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospital, he joined the RNVR in 1942 as a surgeon lieutenant and saw service during the Normandy invasion. He married Audrey Helen Pattison, the daughter of a ship’s purser, in 1947. They had two sons, one of whom became a consultant geriatrician.

On demobilization he was appointed a medical registrar to the Royal Southern Hospital and subsequently became a senior registrar to the Liverpool Royal Infirmary. In 1951 he was appointed a consultant physician to the Merthyr General Hospital, Merthyr Tydfil, where he was the first full-time consultant physician. He joined a single-handed surgeon and covered all medical specialties, even doing his own postmortems. In 1962 he moved to the Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport, where he remained until his retirement in 1983.

John was a true general physician who was at home in any medical specialty. He was a rather silent man, with an underlying warm personality. During a long clinical or administrative discussion he would say nothing until it reached its end - and would then make a few succinct and sensible remarks to which nothing could be added. He was sometimes cynical about advances in medicine. This was epitomized when he had a myocardial infarction while conducting his outpatient clinic; he finished the clinic, dictated his letters, and then drove home where he stayed for a few weeks. He explained that the benefits of coronary care units were marginal at that time. He retired in 1983 and he and his wife moved to Winchester to be closer to their three grandchildren. His leisure pursuits included motoring, travel and photography.

E G Anderson

[Brit.med.J., 1994,308,976]

(Volume IX, page 508)

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